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Doctrine Committee Apologetics Study Document

Confess and Defend: ὁµολογία and ἀπολογία

  1. The New Testament establishes that each Christian is to stand ready to defend (ἀπολογέοµαι/apologeomai) the faith (Lk 12:8-11, 1 Pet 3:15, Jude 3). The term “apologetics” refers to the defense of the Christian faith. Defending the Christian faith may include an explanation of the basic beliefs of Christianity. It may also include giving grounds or reasons for accepting the Christian gospel message as true or a refutation of criticisms of the faith, as well as exposing inadequacies in alternative religions and worldviews.
  2. “Apologetics” is used in either a narrow or a broad sense. It is used in a narrow sense when referring to the presentation of rational arguments and historical evidence in defense of the truthfulness of Scripture against attacks, including the historicity of the events of the Old and New Testaments, especially the events of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In its broad sense, “apologetics” includes the use of the law to show the folly of unbelief, and also the use of the gospel in giving the reason for Christian hope. These theses primarily speak of apologetics in the broad sense.
  3. The New Testament also commands that each Christian is to confess (ὁµολογέω/homologeo) the faith (1 Tim 6:12, 2 Cor 9:13, Rom 10:9,10, 1 Jn 4:1,15, Phil 2:11, Lk 12:8-11). Ὁµολογέω means “to speak the same thing,” i.e. to agree, assent, acknowledge, or profess.
  4. Jesus’ words in Luke 12:8-11 connect “confess” (ὁµολογία v.8) and “answer/defend” (ἀπολογία v. 11). Therefore we hold that “confess” and “defend” (ὁµολογία/ὁµολογέω and ἀπολογία/ἀπολογέοµαι) speak of closely related activities, both of which are commanded by Christ and the apostles.
  5. All of Scripture is the infallible and inerrant word of God and belongs to the faith for which the Christian is to contend (1 Pet 3:15, Jude 3). The heart of Christian confession and defense is the gospel itself—the revelation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made flesh and his sacrificial atonement by which God justifies the sinner. As we can see from the apostles’ activity in the book of Acts, when Christians are called upon to defend the Christian faith or the gospel itself, they will always confess the person of Jesus Christ and his work and give witness to the gospel (Acts 2, 4, 19, 22, 26 etc.).
  6. The Holy Scripture is the word of God and therefore is inherently powerful and self-authenticating. Historical and other external evidence and argument from sources apart from Scripture are a useful and important part of Christian apologetics in that they lay bare and condemn the presumption of unbelief and skepticism, but they neither verify nor authenticate Scripture as God’s revelation.
  7. Human reason is a gift of God (First Article in Luther’s Small Catechism), even though it is corrupted by human sin. We distinguish between a ministerial and a magisterial use of reason. Reason is used ministerially—as a servant—when it is an instrument in presenting and apprehending the gospel, and when it is used to show the foolishness of unbelief. Reason is used magisterially—as a master—when it stands in judgment over Scripture and its teachings, or when it reinterprets or dismisses clear teachings of Scripture to agree with human reason and experience. We reject the magisterial or critical use of reason applied to the teachings of Holy Scripture.
  8. The cause of conversion or regeneration is not to be sought in the human presentation of evidence and argument, as important as they are, but only in the inherent power of God’s word of the gospel (2 Cor 4:6; Eph 2:8,9; 2 Tim 3:15; 1 Pet 1:23).
  9. The Christian confession and defense will always be done with the understanding that regeneration is only the work of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, word and sacrament, and is not aided or effected by man. The absolute predominance of sola fide, sola gratia, and sola Scriptura (solus Christus) will always be made clear in carrying out the apologetic task.
  10. Since the apologetic task is engaged not only in confessing the faith, but in using the law to reveal the presumptuousness of unbelief, care will be taken not to confuse the law and the gospel or to make the law a part of the gospel presentation, instead of a necessary adjunct to it. Christian confession and defense will always keep in mind C. F. W. Walther’s exposition The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, especially the final thesis: “The Word of God is not rightly divided when the person teaching it does not allow the Gospel to have a general predominance in his teaching.”
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